In a remarkable change of events, Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who won all 50 wards in her 2019 triumph, lost her bid for re-election on Tuesday. Tuesday night, the Associated Press reported that Paul Vallas and Brandon Johnson had qualified for the runoff election in April. Just before nine o’clock, Ms. Lightfoot declared the contest over.
In a field of nine contenders for mayor, Ms. Lightfoot finished third. The top two vote-getters advance to a runoff election on April 4 if no candidate receives a majority of the vote. Ms. Lightfoot, 60, had to face a crowded field of rivals, including contenders from her left and right of politics, after taking on the teachers union, a pandemic, and urban crime.
Her chief rivals included Mr. Vallas, a former public school executive, Mr. Johnson, a Chicago County commissioner, and Jess “Chuy” Garca, a member of the U.S. Congress at the time. On Tuesday night, Mr. Garcia was in fourth position.
The 69-year-old Mr. Vallas, a descendant of Greek immigrants, worked in the state senate before joining the veteran Mayor Richard M. Daley’s administration, where he oversaw Chicago’s public schools before overseeing institutions in other significant cities. In the race, he adopted a tough-on-crime tone and claimed the vast political territory to Ms. Lightfoot’s right. The Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 in Chicago, the police union, supports him.
The 46-year-old Mr. Johnson is one of 10 siblings and the son of a pastor. The African-American candidate worked as an organizer for the influential Chicago Teachers Union while teaching in a public school. The union, which has been at odds with Ms. Lightfoot for the past few years on contractual issues and concerns about returning to the classroom during the pandemic, has endorsed Mr. Johnson and opposes her. After being chosen as a county commissioner in 2018, Mr. Johnson supported a law that outlawed housing discrimination against those who had served time in prison.
Prior to entering the national political arena, Mr. Garca, 66, waged an unsuccessful mayoral campaign in 2015 against Rahm Emanuel. Having always embraced his Mexican-American roots and supported progressive causes, he was elected to Congress in 2018 and has served since then. After winning reelection to the US House in November, he decided to run for mayor.
Ms. Lightfoot, a former federal prosecutor, won all 50 wards in the 2019 election, becoming the first openly Black, female, and homosexual mayor of the city. But, the epidemic, disputes with unions, rising crime rates in the city, and other factors have reduced her popularity. One of her main points this election cycle is that the epidemic was just one of the many challenges she faced as mayor and that the city would benefit more from stability than from yet another change at the top.
With Mr. Vallas promising to put a stop to violence in the city, crime has emerged as one of, if not the primary, issues in the campaign.